The 50th anniversary celebration was on Wednesday – and was also our Swearing In Ceremony! It was kind of a big deal.
Normally the swearing in ceremonies are held in the same town as training, and all the host families are invited. Instead ours was at the Palais de Congres in Yaounde, with the Prime Minister of Cameroon as the guest of honor, and a fair afterward that was kicked off by the First Lady.
So Wednesday morning all of the trainees had to be on the busses in Bafia, ready to go, along with one member of our host families each that we could invite to the ceremony, by 6:00 a.m. We had to make sure that we arrived in Yaounde in time to all be seated by 9:30 before all the ministers, including the Prime Minister arrived. In the end he just ended up sending a representative, as did the US ambassador (it was the guy whose wife I sat with at the dinner at the CD’s house). The ceremony involved a lot of speeches (including one that I gave in French as a representative of my training group), gifts to officials, an ok rendition of Man in the Mirror sung by us and a small Cameroonian choir, and the actual swearing in. Now all 53 of us are Volunteers!
Afterwards we were herded downstairs to the big entrance hall to await the arrival of the First Lady, Chantal Biya. She was there as the head of her NGO, which I believe supports mothers and infants in Cameroon. If you haven’t, you should google a picture of her. When she arrived, she and the Country Director went arround to each of the booths set up, representing each region of Cameroon and each sector that the Peace Corps works in to formally view them.
Those of us that were now newly sworn in volunteers then had a buffet lunch with those members of our families that were there before heading down to look around the fair ourselves. I mostly just hung out at the booth for the North Region, talking to the volunteer who is just finishing her service at what is now my post. It was awesome to meet Dori and ask all the random questions that I have about where I’ll be living. And now I have the keys to my house!
After that was the bus ride back to Bafia, a party just for us to celebrate our new volunteer status, Thanksgiving in Bokito the next day, and then the long trip up to the North. Those of us posted in the Grand North all took an overnight train from Yaounde to Ngaoundere on Friday night, and then we had about a five hour bus ride to get here to Garoua, my regional capital. Those of us with posts in the North are here for the weekend, and to open bank accounts and do some protocol tomorrow (Monday), and then we’ll be off to our posts on Tuesday.
That’s right, I’m getting a new home for my birthday!
I’ll try to get a couple pictures us soon, but the wifi is being a little finicky at the moment.